Saturday, May 23, 2015

Fly Tying: Stacking Hair with and without a Stacker

Stacking hair is done to even up the tip ends to build bodies, heads, wings, legs and tails of flies. Commercial hair stackers are commonly used, but if you don't have one, your fingers can be used for the same purpose. There are many good stackers on the market. I prefer the Renzetti stacker because it has both a small and large cylinder. Both stacking methods are shown below. 

Commercial Stackers
Cut a clump of deer hair and use a fine-toothed comb to remove the underfur. Then place the hair, tips first, into the stacker and hold it slightly at an angle as you tamp them down. If you stack the hair vertically, the hairs might fall to the side unevenly and will have to be sorted out. To finish, hold the stacker horizontally and pull out the lined-up hair. 

Finger Stacking
If you don't have a commercial stacker, you can use your fingers to even up the hairs. To begin, tightly grab the longer tip ends of hair with your gingers and pull them out. Then, replace them in the stack so the tips are even with the original bunch. Repeat this process until the hairs are all even. 

Note:  A strong thread is necessary to avoid breakage as you spin the hair. A nylon thread, Kelvar and Nymo will prevent this from happening. Also, other stackers such as Brassie and Anvil are reliable choices.  

Saturday, May 16, 2015

Fly Fishing Coincidence on Deep Creek

Deep Creek, Oregon
Deep Creek is a small tributary of Oregon’s Clackamas River, and years ago it had runs of wild Steelhead and Coho salmon. Today much of it is on private property, and it is closed to fishing for anadromous fish such as salmon and Steelhead. However, years ago before these regulations were instated, two very similar events occurred on this stream to me and my close friend, Larry Lindstrom. His story took place when he was only 7 years old and my story occurred when I was 21 years old. 

My episode unfolded when I was visiting a friend who owned property near Deep Creek. The stream was low and shallow in most places, but there were small, 3-to-4-foot pools here and there that were overshadowed by Alder trees and underbrush. Using my 8-foot, 5-weight, glass Fenwick rod, I waded downstream, repeatedly casting into the pocket water using a small, orange yarn fly. I was hoping to catch a few Rainbow trout when suddenly a large splash erupted and a 6-pound Steelhead headed down river. My elation ended quickly as the fish jumped once and shredded my 4-pound test leader. I was totally distraught, but my pursuit and love of fly fishing for Steelhead was christened that day. 

Larry’s experience took place on Deep Creek at his father’s house further upstream. His dad outfitted him with an old 8-foot vintage South Bend bamboo fly rod, a worn out South Bend casting reel and a tattered spinning fly. After a few words about safety from his dad, he headed downstream and began to fish. Incredibly, after only a few haphazard casts a 6-pound Steelhead grabbed his spinning fly and tore down river with Larry screaming wildly. His dad heard him yelling and fearing the worst he charged down to help his son. Unfortunately, after several minutes of intense instruction, the fish broke the line. To this day, Larry is still a dedicated fly fisher and has mastered the art; however, he still laments the day he lost his first Steelhead. 

We have since discussed the unlikely odds of two beginners fly fishing the same stream years apart and hooking and losing their very first 6-pound Steelhead. It’s amazing how agonizing defeats can leave such lasting impressions. 

Saturday, May 9, 2015

The Kalama Special Steelhead Fly

Kalama Special Steelhead Fly
Mooch Abrams of Portland, Oregon, developed the Kalama Special in the 1930s to fish for Sea-Run Cutthroat. It was later popularized by Mike Kennedy to fish for Summer-Run Steelhead on Washington’s Kalama River. Mike used the fly so often that it was sometimes called the Kennedy Special, however; Mike never claimed it as his own. The fly is used effectively on many other rivers, especially in the late summer when grasshoppers are available. A few of his many steelhead patterns are the Fool’s Gold, the Maverick and the Dingbat. 

Materials for tying the Kalama Special:
Hook:  36890 Mustad, sizes 4 to 6
Thread:  3/0 black monocord
Tail:  Red hackle
Body:  Yellow yarn or chenille
Hackle:  Badger
Wing:  White calftail or bucktail

Step 1.
 Attach the red tail, hackle and body material. 

Step 2
Wrap the body forward and follow with five to six turns of hackle. 
Be sure to leave room to tie off the head. 

Step 3
Pull the front end of the hackle back and slightly wrap back over it to form a 
slight backward angle. Finish by tying in the wing and cementing the head.

Thursday, May 7, 2015

Fly Fishing with Split-Wing Flies

Juicy Bug
The Juicy Bug was created in the late 19th century 
by Russ Towers of the Empire City (now known as 
Coos Bay) and his fishing partner Ben Chandler. 
The original split-wing steelhead flies were developed on the Rogue River in Oregon to fish for steelhead and salmon in the early 1950's. They were tied on small hooks--Nos. 8 to 10--with the wing pointed toward the rear of the fly. The flies produced a lot of action as they skittered, twitched or waked across the surface. Double hooks were commonly used with the belief that they were needed to land a large fish. Today, however, larger single hooks--Nos. 6 and 4--are primarily used. 

October Caddis    
The October Caddis was devloped by Bill Bakke,
a conservation director of Oregon Trout and avid fly fisher. 

The wings of waking or skating patterns are pointed forward and can entice fish to come to the surface. Strikes are usually very aggressive. As the fly swings across the surface, it creates a noticeable disturbance that alerts fish to a possible source of food. This is called the "wet fly swing" or the "grease line method." This method was developed in Europe years ago and refers to greasing or waterproofing silk fly lines to help them float.  

The "broadside method" is eerily exciting. The fly is presented in the same manner as the split wing and waking patterns, but a curve in the fly line is allowed to occur. As the fly swings, a noticeable wake follows the fly which alerts holding fish. However, instead of the explosive strikes that the other methods produce, steelhead simply suck the fly in like it is taking a dry fly. 

I can remember using these methods and steelhead would chase my split-wing fly 7 to 8 times across the surface without hooking up. The excitement of a steelhead repeatedly boiling in an attempt to take your offering can really tense your muscles. Don’t worry about it! Just bow to the fish, set the hook and enjoy the action. 

Materials for tying the Juicy Bug:
Hook:  Mustad 3582, size 4-6  
Thread:  black 3/0
Tail:  Red hackle fibers
Body:  Black and red chenille
Ribbing:  Silver oval tinsel
Wing:  White calftail

Materials for tying the October Caddis:
Hook:  Mustad 36890, size 2-6   
Thread:  Black 3/0  
Tail:  Deer hair  
Body:  Orange yarn 
Hackle:  Brown         
Wing:  Deer hair                   

Saturday, May 2, 2015

The Thunder and Lightning Fly is more than a Great Storm Fly

Doug's Version of the Thunder and Lightning Fly
The Thunder and Lightning fly was supposedly named after a sudden storm caused a river to rise quickly and which in turn caused salmon to go into a feeding frenzy. However, as years passed, fly fishers discovered that it was a much better fly in low water. Because of this, I tend to believe that the Thunder and Lightening fly is an all-around pattern that can be used in many conditions. There are numerous variations that are effective as well. 

My only experience with this fly occurred at Davis Lake, Oregon where rainbows of ten pounds or more could be caught. My friend Bill and I had been fishing this lake for several hours with only a few smaller fish to our credit. We were still enjoying the day, when the weather suddenly began to turn for the worse. Dark, ominous clouds began to build up in the northeast which quickly grabbed my attention. When thunder began to rumble, I told Bill that we should head back, but he just scoffed and said with a cocky sneer, “What, are you afraid of a little lightening? 

I glared directly at him and said, “Bill, we are sitting in an aluminum boat and our graphite fly rods are lightning rods! Let’s go before it gets worse.” 

He was very indignant and said sarcastically, “Maybe we’ll have better luck if we use the Thunder and Lightning fly!” 

When he laughed, I glared at him and yelled, “Bill, that’s taunting nature! I’m rowing back and taking cover.” 

The minute we got to camp, thunder, strong winds and lightening began to threaten us. Besides the lightening, the rain began to pelt the camp, the wind collapsed our tent and our sleeping bags got sopping wet.  After we weathered the storm, the subject of lightening never entered our conversation again.

Dr. T. E. Pryce-Tannant refers to the Thunder and Lightning fly in this book, How to Dress Salmon FliesThe original recipe for this fly took 16 applications, but here is a simplified version that should also work.

Tag:  Oval gold tinsel
Tail:  Golden pheasant crest
Butt:  Black ostrich herl
Body:  Black floss, gold tinsel and palmered orange hackle
Throat:  Blue jay feathers
Wing:  Bronze mallard feather over teal
Topping: Golden pheasant crest
Shoulder:  Jungle Cock
Head:  Black ostrich herl

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